British Prime Minister Liz Truss is battling increasing demand for resignation from all quarters, including from her own party MPs, as she sacked chancellor of exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday, 14 October, amid fallout from the duo’s mini budget.
At a press conference, which lasted 8 minutes and 21 seconds, she declared Jeremy Hunt as her new chancellor.
Truss also announced, in a major U-Turn, to keep the increase in corporation tax that was planned by the Boris Johnson government, expected to raise £18 billion per year.
“…it is clear that parts of our mini budget went further and faster than markets were expecting. So the way we are delivering our mission right now has to change. We need to act now to reassure the markets of our fiscal discipline,” Truss said.
The markets, however, were not fully convinced, with the pound down 0.4 percent against the dollar at $1.1285 following the PM’s speech.
How Long Will Truss Last?
Liz Truss' press conference, local newspapers say, was aimed at persuading Conservative Party MPs who have raised the clamour against her. It has, however, failed to ease the tempers, with senior Conservative MPs plotting how to remove her from office, The Guardian reported.
Some MPs are mulling whether to publicly call for her to resign in the coming days, the report said.
"50/50 whether she will make it till Christmas.”One former cabinet minister to The Guardian
"If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of her now then I would, but the problem is the mechanism,” the MP added.
Kwarteng, who was sacked as finance minister for following a policy that Truss had promised during her campaign run, said his removal “only buys her a few more weeks,” a source quoted by The Times said.
“His [Kwarteng's] view is that the wagons are still going to circle,” the source added.
Some MPs said they regarded Truss as “finished” and it was a matter of time before she was ousted, particularly if there were a succession of further polls showing the Tories more than 30 points behind Labour, the report further said.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, according to the Evening Standard, said, “Hard to understand why the prime minister has sacked her chancellor - a good man - for promoting the policies upon which she was elected.”
Some Tory MPs think that Hunt’s appointment as chancellor could buy Truss some time.
Hunt, who failed twice to win the premiership, is expected to be a powerful figure in the government. People could regard “Truss as the chairman and Hunt as the chief executive” of the government, Steve Brine, told the BBC.
“Good, though, that in Jeremy Hunt there will be an experienced pair of hands on the financial tiller,” Gale said.
Amid what seems like another rebellion brewing in the Conservative Party, Truss is looking to avoid being the shortest-serving British prime minister. The title is currently held by George Canning, who remained in power for just 119 days in 1827 before dying in office at the age of 57.
To avoid the label of shortest-serving British prime minister, Truss must survive in office till 3 January 2023.
While political pundits argue the viability of her prospects, a British tabloid has pitted Truss in a race against a lettuce. In a live feed on Twitter and YouTube, Daily Star on Friday put the picture of Truss against a lettuce, asking: "Can Truss outlast this lettuce?"
Truss was appointed the prime minister of the UK by Queen Elizabeth II on 6 September after she defeated former Chancellor Rishi Sunak for the post. She succeeded Boris Johnson, who was forced to resign in the aftermath of a series of scandals that led to ministers resigning en masse.
Truss Dodges Questions on Resignation
During her short press conference, Truss fielded four questions from reporters, with three of them directly questioning her on the decision to stay on as prime minister while she sacked the chancellor.
“I’m absolutely determined to see through what I’ve promised. To deliver a higher growth, more prosperous United Kingdom. To see us through the storm we face.”Liz Truss, on being asked why she should remain as prime minister, given she dumped her key promise of tax cut.
Truss was asked why Kwarteng had to go while she is still in office despite the two of them designing the mini-budget together, the prime minister said, “My priority is making sure we deliver the economic stability that our country needs. That’s why I had to take the difficult decisions I’ve taken today. The mission remains the same. We do need to raise our country’s economic growth levels.”
Questioned by another reported on the “credibility to continue governing,” the prime minister said, “What I have done today is made sure we have economic stability in this country. Jeremy Hunt as chancellor is somebody who shares my desire for a high growth, low tax economy. But we recognise because of current market issues we have to deliver the mission in a different way.”
Jeremy Hunt becomes 4th Finance Ministers in a Year
Hunt was appointed as the new chancellor of exchequer on Friday, becoming the fourth person to hold the office in a year.
Rishi Sunak, who was appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2020, resigned earlier this year, triggering a rebellion against Johnson. He was succeeded by Nadhim Zahawi who held the office until new prime minister, Liz Truss, appointed Kwarteng as her chancellor.
Hunt, a former secretary of state, is the fourth chancellor in a year.
Today I have asked Jeremy Hunt to become the new chancellor, Truss announced.
“He is one of the most experienced and widely respected government ministers and parliamentarians. And he shares my convictions and ambitions for our country. He will deliver the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan at the end of this month,” she said.
“He [Hunt] will see through the support we are providing to help families and businesses including our Energy Price Guarantee that’s protecting people from higher energy bills this winter. And he will drive our mission to go for growth, including taking forward the supply side reforms that our country needs."Liz Truss
(With inputs from The Guardian, The Times, and Evening Standard.)